Cheney defends Bush on Enron debacle
WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday defended President Bush’s right to refuse to identify the executives the White House met with in formulating the administration’s energy policy.
Amid the Enron scandal, Congress’ investigative arm will soon decide whether to sue to force the White House to turn over documents on the meetings last year with representatives of energy companies. They included the now-collapsed Enron Corp., a Houston-based company with deep ties to Bush.
Cheney acknowledged that the dispute “probably will get resolved in court.” Last week, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had left open the possibility of a compromise.
The White House said recently that representatives of Enron, an energy trader that was ranked as the seventh-largest U.S. corporation, met six times on energy issues last year with Cheney or his aides. Thousands of employees and big and small investors nationwide lost fortunes in Enron’s plunging stock as the company spiraled into the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history on Dec. 2.
Natural gas factory plans canceled
MAPUTO, Mozambique — Enron Corp.’s bankruptcy has canceled plans for a natural-gas fueled factory that would have produced steel for export from Mozambique, the Mozambique News Agency reported Sunday.
The Maputo Iron and Steel Project was supposed to be built on the outskirts of the capital Maputo and was expected to produce as much as 1.8 million metric tons of steel slabs annually. Houston-based Enron would have invested $1.1 billion in the project.
An official from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy said the departure of Enron all but ended the government’s hopes that a similar project could be set up in the southern African nation.
White House reviews $70 million worth of Enron contracts
WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday ordered a review of $70 million worth of federal contracts with Enron Corp. and the Arthur Andersen accounting firm to determine whether the embattled companies are worthy of government business.
In a letter to the General Services Administration, which oversees government contracts, budget director Mitchell E. Daniels said charges of document shredding, manipulative accounting practices and other activities “could reflect poorly” on the companies and their ability to meet government ethics standards.
In a somber development elsewhere on Friday, a former Enron executive was found shot to death in a car in a suburb of Houston — an apparent suicide, police said.
The executive, 43-year-old J. Clifford Baxter, had challenged the company’s questionable financial practices and resigned last May.
American Airlines decide against British alliance
WASHINGTON — American Airlines and British Airways walked away from a proposed alliance rather than give up takeoff and landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The decision marks the second time in five years that the two airlines dropped their request to set rates and routes together and sell each other’s tickets because federal regulators insisted that they give up the coveted slots as part of the deal.
The two airlines said Friday they would still try to work together within existing rules.
Transportation Department spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said the airlines’ decision means the agency will not act on the carriers’ current application for an alliance. The airlines could come back with a new plan, Alcivar said.
K-mart’s new bluelight special
DETROIT — Bankrupt retailer Kmart Corp. has begun an internal investigation after receiving an anonymous letter claiming to be from employees that raised questions about its accounting.
The nation’s third largest discount retailer, which filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, said it notified the Securities and Exchange Commission and is cooperating with the regulatory agency, which is conducting its own investigation.
The disclosure comes amid heightened sensitivity about accounting issues in the wake of the collapse of energy trader Enron Corp. amid questionable accounting practices.
Kmart said Friday that the letter, which it received just over a week ago, was addressed to its auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers, its board of directors and the SEC.